This rapid drawing was made with the page turned horizontally. Finberg later annotated his 1909 Inventory entry (‘View on canal’): ‘From Mouth Gd. Canal. S. Giorgio in distance’.1 However, rather than looking east-south-east across the Bacino to the church of San Giorgio Maggiore (as seen on folio 59 verso opposite; D31907), it may rather be a view from the north side of the entrance to the Grand Canal, looking south-west to the schematically rendered main dome of Santa Maria della Salute on the left, with the south side of the canal stretching away to the west and indications of palaces on the near side on the right.
Compare the more detailed sketch on folio 58 recto (D31904). The viewpoint was presumably the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian), where Turner was staying, or nearby; as a reprise or variant of the familiar view, its slight architectural setting serves simply to frame and orientate the urgently rendered clouds, defined in looping lines and, most unusually in the artist’s pencil sketches, with an apparently deliberate smudge. Ian Warrell has noted this as a sign that ‘Turner was subjected to the scirocco winds, which bring sudden and sustained inundations during the long summer days in Venice’, with this page and folio 61 recto (D31910), a Grand Canal view in the other direction, being ‘quite specific in documenting the unexpected arrival of lowering clouds and driving rain.’2 Tate D33883 (Turner Bequest CCCXLI 183), a contemporary pencil and chalk study on grey paper, shows the Salute and the adjacent Dogana in such conditions. Rain is also evoked in the waterfront view on folio 63 verso (D31915).
Along with D31904, this swift impression perhaps informed a watercolour of The Grand Canal, with Santa Maria della Salute, from near the Hotel Europa (private collection),3 with its lurid sunset offset by dark clouds looming over the Salute. The sheet is associated with the dispersed ‘Storm’ sketchbook (see the introduction to the Grand Canal and Giudecca sketchbook; Tate; Turner Bequest CCCXV).
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1011.
Warrell 2003, pp.119, 263 note 5.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.464 no.1368; see Warrell 2003, pp.171, 264 note 26, fig.183 (colour).